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Meet the Villains—Linxia Benzekri

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The countdown to the Hell's Vengeance Adventure Path continues, as we reveal the next iconic villain that will appear in Paizo's first Adventure Path for evil characters! Today we get our first glimpse of the iconic Hellknight, Linxia Benzekri. Check out Pathfinder Adventure Path #104: Wrath of Thrune for Linxia's full stat block, and keep an eye out for the upcoming Hell's Vengeance Player's Guide, which contains all of the new iconic villains for use as pregenerated characters!


Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

Linxia Benzekri was born and raised in Khari, the Chelish enclave on the northwest corner of Garund. Although ethnically Garundi, Linxia always thought of herself as Chelaxian. After all, Khari had been part of Cheliax since long before she was ever born, and though Linxia's parents kept their Garundi surname, they gave her a traditional Chelish first name. Her family long ago abandoned the clan ties that define many Garundi, and while Linxia's grandparents still occasionally spoke Osiriani in private, it was never spoken in her own home, and Linxia never bothered to learn her native tongue. To Linxia, the mighty ruins of the Arch of Aroden that tower above Khari were more a symbol of her heritage than the city's Rahadoumi sandstone architecture.

When Linxia was still a child, her parents sent her to an Asmodean convent. Both of Linxia's parents were successful merchants and traders, and though they were not religious, they felt it was important for their eldest child to receive a good education if she were to join the family business. At the convent, Linxia learned the grand history of Cheliax, how House Thrune unified a warring nation with the blessings of Asmodeus, and the necessity of laws based on those of Hell itself to preserve an ordered society.

Linxia returned home a teenager, now a loyal Chelish citizen ready to do her part to support the empire. But she was taken aback when she overheard her parents talking with an old family friend about a secret cabal of Garundi gentry who wanted to return Khari to "its rightful home" of Rahadoum. Horrified that her parents were involved in such a treasonous plot, Linxia reasoned that her parents' friend must have lured them into the conspiracy, so she immediately reported them to the city guard, the dottari.

That night, two Hellknights of the Order of the Rack—dressed in their characteristic night-black armor and flayed-skin cloaks—came to Linxia's house to arrest her parents for sedition. As her parents were hauled away in chains, loudly proclaiming their innocence and begging the impassive Hellknights to show mercy, Linxia only watched in silence. If her parents were truly innocent, then she trusted the law to exonerate them.

Linxia's parents were judged guilty that same night, and the next morning, Linxia went to the city square to witness their sentences: scourged with whips until their backs looked like the exposed musculature of the Hellknights' armor, crucified, and then disemboweled. Through it all, Linxia watched without emotion. She was not happy to see her parents' excruciation, but neither did she feel sadness. Even though she still believed her parents were duped, they had been found guilty of treason and had to be punished. The law had spoken.

Three days later, when her parents finally succumbed to their tortures and died, Linxia made a decision: she would become a Hellknight herself. Her parents' crime was not their own—they had been misled by a friend, and paid the price. As a member of the Order of the Rack, however, she could help protect other innocents from such dangerous whispers and prevent them from suffering the same fate. The Hellknights personified the law and order that guarded civilization and prevented it from sliding back into barbarity; people like the "friend" who had deceived her parents were criminals whose actions threatened the very fabric of society.

As a symbol of her dedication, Linxia shaved her head and got a tattoo of the Order of the Rack's symbol—a spiked torture wheel—on her forehead, so every time she looked in the mirror she would be reminded of her goal, her purpose, and the terrible consequences of failure. Linxia traveled to Avistan and presented herself at the gates of Citadel Rivad, headquarters of the Order of the Rack, and was accepted into the order as an armiger, a Hellknight squire in training.

Linxia devoted herself to her new calling, honing her mind and body for the trials that lay ahead. She had received basic combat training at the Asmodean monastery, but under the tutelage of the Hellknights, she learned to fight in heavy armor, mastered the sword and whip, and learned strategy, tactics, and engineering. When not practicing the arts of war, Linxia obsessively studied in Citadel Rivad's library, memorizing the tenets of the Hellknights' philosophy, the Measure and the Chain. To strengthen her resolve and desensitize herself to pain, Linxia regularly and willingly underwent the Order of the Rack's reckoning, purging herself of weakness and undisciplined thoughts by drinking boiling water until her throat scarred and left her voice a ragged rasp.

Before Linxia could become a full Hellknight, however, the Order of the Rack had a test for her loyalty. One of Linxia's brothers had been arrested for attempting to rekindle the spark of rebellion that had been stamped out in Khari with her parents' execution. He had been tried, found guilty, and brought to Citadel Rivad for sentencing. Without hesitation, Linxia drew her sword, and looking straight into her brother's eyes, beheaded him without remorse. Like her parents, Linxia's brother had broken the law. Justice was served.

With her training complete, her loyalty and dedication to the law tested and found sufficient, Linxia faced her final task: single combat with a summoned barbazu. All around her, many of her fellow armigers failed in this final trial, slain by the devils' barbed glaives or succumbing to infernal wounds and infections they suffered at the hands of the fiends. But Linxia succeeded, emerging bloodied but triumphant, her studies, training, and most of all, her determination, leading her to victory.

When she had recovered from her ordeal, Linxia was accorded the full rank of Hellknight and granted the symbol of her station: a suit of Hellknight plate armor, bearing the same flayed musculature motif as the Hellknights who had arrested and executed her parents. Now Linxia serves as a righteous bastion of law against the chaos of insidious knowledge, corrupt philosophies, and rebellious thought. With her sword, she enforces conformity and justice to preserve a peaceful and ordered society—no matter the cost.

Stay tuned over the coming months as we reveal more of the villains you'll see in the pages of our first evil Adventure Path, Hell's Vengeance!

Rob McCreary
Senior Developer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Hell's Vengeance Hellknights Iconics Linxia Meet the Iconics Pathfinder Adventure Path Wayne Reynolds
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13 people marked this as a favorite.

"Meet the Iconics" ...could I maybe, not meet her? She's ever so slightly terrifying.

On a more serious note, love the background and the art. I absolutely cannot wait for Hell's Vengeance, looks like it's shaping up to be a fantastic AP!


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

DAAAAAAAMN.


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber

Oh HELL yeah.

A character whose slide into evil manages to be both banal (in a good way) and tragic.

Me likee.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Now, this is a good argument for homeschooling in Cheliax. ;)


9 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

It's the Anti-Seelah!


I find her lack of constitution disturbing.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Damn...that's AWESOME!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Great illustration Wayne! Fantastic armor and pose, and I particularly like the attention to detail on the boots.

Contributor—Canadian Maplecakes

1 person marked this as a favorite.

ALL THE EXCITEMENT! O_O

Dark Archive

Tragically badass. Hell yes.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Wow, great character. Good job!

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What's up with her right eye?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

I'm really excited for this Adventure Path. I don't run games in Golarion, but I really want to give this one a try.


11 people marked this as a favorite.
Misroi wrote:
What's up with her right eye?

That's the eye that cares about your sob story.


Questions!

A) Lawful Evil, or really ruthless Lawful Neutral?

B) How'd she end up in Cheliax proper?

C) Unless her backstory is pure flavor then there's no way she can be a fully fledged Hellknight at level one, right?

D) What is her reason for wanting to kill the Glorious Reclamation? Iomedae is lawful, too. Does she just think their form of law is too weak and impure?

Paizo Employee Developer

Answers! (mostly)

A) All of the villains we're presenting for Hell's Vengeance have the letter "E" in their alignment.

B) She probably took a boat across the strait on her way to Citadel Rivad.

C) Correct. She began as a Hellknight squire in training. The statblocks for each villain that will appear in each volume of Hell's Vengeance are them at 7th-level, which in her case means that she is a full-on Hellknight.

D) I should leave this last one for Rob since he wrote this villain. However, Linxia is not only a Hellknight, but is also a loyal Chelaxian. The idea that some sect wants to come in and disrupt order is probably pretty distasteful.


Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Adam Daigle wrote:

Answers! (mostly)

A) All of the villains we're presenting for Hell's Vengeance have the letter "E" in their alignment.

If that's the case, then this iconic's background story does a very poor job of presenting her as evil. If anything, it presents a very strongly LN character, and an argument for playing a LN character. Nothing about her background really suggests that she is evil.


22 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber
General Spoon wrote:
Nothing about her background really suggests that she is evil.

Ratting out her parents and then feeling no remorse as they're viciously tortured to death, signing on to inflict further torture in the name of law and order, cold-bloodedly executing her own brother on what amounts to hearsay?

None of this, uh, none of this says "evil" to you?


Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Cole Deschain wrote:
General Spoon wrote:
Nothing about her background really suggests that she is evil.

Ratting out her parents and then feeling no remorse as they're viciously tortured to death, signing on to inflict further torture in the name of law and order, cold-bloodedly executing her own brother on what amounts to hearsay?

None of this, uh, none of this says "evil" to you?

"Three days later, when her parents finally succumbed to their tortures and died, Linxia made a decision: she would become a Hellknight herself. Her parents' crime was not their own—they had been misled by a friend, and paid the price. As a member of the Order of the Rack, however, she could help protect other innocents from such dangerous whispers and prevent them from suffering the same fate."


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber

By torturing them.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

Yeah, she's practically a paladin.


10 people marked this as a favorite.

Well, an alignment argument has broken out, so clearly she's Batman. ;)


8 people marked this as a favorite.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
-Old Proverb

If the execution hadn't involved torture, I'd be willing to call her a Lawful Neutral zealot, just as dangerous as Lawful Evil, but with better ideas. But in her good intentions, she's blindly sided with such utter evil as this, and in Cheliax, blindly Lawful might as well be blindly Evil.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

While it's not secret that I'm not a fan of this type of approach, I'm willing to at the very least tolerate this (but will not participate in it as an Adventure Path whatsoever). So far this hasn't gone to far and I hope it stays like that. I know it's probably not easy for the Paizo staff to write evil iconics that don't offend someone somewhere. Just please tread carefully on this Paizo.


I agree with General Spoon - she doesn't seem personally evil to me. Just another righteous zealot.


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Adam Daigle wrote:


A) All of the villains we're presenting for Hell's Vengeance have the letter "E" in their alignment.

because 'alignmnt' is harder to pronounce?


2 people marked this as a favorite.

One of lawful evil Lazzero's justifications for his actions was that he applied the law for his own advancement at the expense of the weak and unworthy, making him an emblematic Asmodean. His evil is classically selfish, and his motivations and actions support only himself.

Linxia's motivations, in contrast, are all outward: she wants to save her parents by rooting out agents of chaos, which are fundamentally good, lawful, and altruistic intentions. As a result, she views herself as a good person who acts in service of good and in support of a fundamentally lawful regime, even though her actions are oppressively evil and in service of an evil regime whose methods seem to do nothing but foster, not extinguish, rebellion and chaos.

Her evil is tenuous at best, more the result of deception and conditioning than inherent corruption. She pursues strength and power to use them for defense, and chooses the Rack not because she enjoys their methods but because their methods are the only ones she's seen work.

This makes her seem far more likely to be redeemed than Lazzero, particularly if someone were to prove to her both that the Order of the Rack's methods were what led her parents to embrace "chaos"—not an agent of barbarism as she believes—and also that the Rack's fascist, revisionist oppression represents neither goodly behavior that protects the innocent nor an effective method of maintaining civilization and order.

Hell, since everything's about Star Wars this month, she's basically as evil as

Spoiler:
Finn at the very start of TFA.
And as such, I'd wager that each time she's commanded to do anything truly evil in service of the Rack which doesn't "protect other innocents from such dangerous whispers and prevent them from suffering the same fate" as her parents, she'd grow closer to a serious crisis of discipline and faith.
Nightglass:
Or just read Nightglass for what happens to Isiem. He starts more compromised in his evil than Linxia and never fully buys into his Kuthite faith, but he keeps performing evil deeds (including enforcement through gruesome torture) for quite a long time. His turn comes from the strix exposing the fallacy of Cheliax's methods, much in the same way as I could see Linxia's moral compass shifting should she better understand what motivates Cheliax's, and especially Khari's, dissenters.

Paizo Employee Developer

14 people marked this as a favorite.
Oceanshieldwolf wrote:
I agree with General Spoon - she doesn't seem personally evil to me. Just another righteous zealot.

And yet she detects as evil when divinatory magic is used to determine the truth of her alignment. Weird.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

I don't think it's weird Mark.

She's Lawful Evil. It says so on her character. And I have no problem with that, I'm fully behind the concept of evil iconics.

The backstory just doesn't scream evil to me. Not arguing. Just making an observation.


Is that the Order of the Rack dress code, or did she come off second best in a fight against a hedge?


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Blog wrote:
Before Linxia could become a full Hellknight, however, the Order of the Rack had a test for her loyalty. One of Linxia's brothers had been arrested for attempting to rekindle the spark of rebellion that had been stamped out in Khari with her parents' execution. He had been tried, found guilty, and brought to Citadel Rivad for sentencing. Without hesitation, Linxia drew her sword, and looking straight into her brother's eyes, beheaded him without remorse.

I was half waiting for the Hellknights to tell her she failed for being too merciful :)

"That was too merciful. You should have noticed the stack of wood and spikes in the corner, and the whip and torture implements under this tarp. We have doubts that you can properly enforce the law if you can't even handle a simple scourging and crucifixion. We will be merciful and grade you as a C - do not disappoint us again."


Yeah, these evil iconics get creepier and creepier. I wanna see the next one top Linxia in sheer vileness.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

I was going to comment about the boob plate till I look closer and realized the Armour is stylized to represent muscle revealed by flayed skin. creep factor outweighs practicality in this case.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

@Wyntr: That makes no sense whatsoever for the Order of the Rack. Racks have, as their job, the followings tasks: Finding, Uprooting, and Destroying the chaos that is criminal activities. Torture is only necessary when the accused claims to have not done their crime; her brother admitted to the crime, and therefore his criminal activities had been uprooted and made known. The only step left was to execute him; giving him a chance to explain himself would show a wavering-at-best belief in the righteousness of the law, but torturing him more for no good reason is just a waste of time and shows sadism, not orderliness.

@AlgaeNymph: I don't see her as vile, and I agree that putting her as Lawful Evil isn't quite accurate when it comes right down to it. Is she merciless, forthright, and deadly? Yes. But none of these things are what people traditionally consider evil; she doesn't sound like she tortures people for fun. She doesn't find random people to lynch, she waits for the courts to claim someone is guilty before torturing them and fulfilling their execution. She's a mercilessly-direct Lawful Neutral for sure, but I'd hesitate to call her Evil any more than a ranger who puts down orcs and goblins on-sight no-questions-asked as Evil.

Personally, I am interested in seeing how Paizo will do the rest of the iconics for Hell's Vengeance. I think that the actual idea of "evil" will need to come out more, because Linxia doesn't strike me as particularly evil or cruel. If what they're going for is "Cheliax hires all sorts, and even someone who is a calm and even-handed arbiter of justice can do dark deeds in the name of a good cause" then I congratulate them on this character. If they instead are going for "look how eeeeeeeevil this girl is!" then I think they'll need to work a bit more on it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Mark Moreland wrote:
Oceanshieldwolf wrote:
I agree with General Spoon - she doesn't seem personally evil to me. Just another righteous zealot.
And yet she detects as evil when divinatory magic is used to determine the truth of her alignment. Weird.

Well then your writer really dropped the ball when writing her motivation as protecting innocents.


8 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm not sure where everyone is having a difficult time coming to terms with her 'being evil'. I believe James Hunt 795 summed it up best with "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". I don't want to have to be that guy, but it seems like I must by bringing in Hitler and Nazi germany. Without going all crazy and writing an essay, it could simply be put that those in power during WWII in Germany thought they were doing a service to the world - 'protecting the innocent', as it were, from what they perceived to be true evil.

Alignment, morality... It can all be argued for hours, but ultimately in Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons at large, alignment is a quantifiable 'thing', thanks to the use of spells which can look into someone's heart and tell you how good, chaotic, lawful, or evil that person might be. As far as I'm concerned, she's just evil enough to be interesting without verging on stupidity - a wholly enjoyable villain who is identifiable.

A+ to the writers. And as always, the artwork is gorgeous, Wayne!

Liberty's Edge

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Torture is evil.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Are there going to be any daughters of the golden erinyes in the AP?


4 people marked this as a favorite.
CBDunkerson wrote:

Torture is evil.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

Beat me to it. 100% agree.

Silver Crusade

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Rob clearly forgot to add a line about how she kicked a puppy after she was done with her family. That would settle the controversy...

Dark Archive

12 people marked this as a favorite.
Gorbacz wrote:
Rob clearly forgot to add a line about how she kicked a puppy after she was done with her family. That would settle the controversy...

She didn't kick it, she just scolded it and withheld affection and made it feel undeserving and bad about itself, and now it's a pathetically eager to please broken husk of a puppy. Just like Asmodeus intended.

As for evil, she's the worst kind of evil, the selfless evil of the brainwashed zealot.

Selfish evil is at least relatable, out for power or money or respect, but she's dispassionate and uncaring. She's barely even human.

And it's kind of cool that the second 'evil iconic' out of the gate already has people questioning what is evil and what is just void of good traits like empathy and compassion. Evil and good should both be complex enough to support a wide range of character types, many widely different from each other (and many with valid reasons to conflict with each other!), and not just Sith-anger-robots and Jedi-control-robots.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

11 people marked this as a favorite.
General Spoon wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
Oceanshieldwolf wrote:
I agree with General Spoon - she doesn't seem personally evil to me. Just another righteous zealot.
And yet she detects as evil when divinatory magic is used to determine the truth of her alignment. Weird.
Well then your writer really dropped the ball when writing her motivation as protecting innocents.

Hmm...

Mr. Marcone would like to talk to you...

Or this quote:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” - CS Lewis.

Shadow Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.

WAR did damn good. Especially with the feet. I know, I know, it's a common complant, that feet tend to be an afterthought - just look at Lazzero's - but Linxia's are damn fine.

Cool story too. In my mind, it's exactly the kind of common evil, the evil of the crowd, that Lawful Evil is supposed to be. Uncaring, rigid and adhering to the letter of the law. The system works, we should be thankful. That said, there's enough nuance so that Linxia's personality's not robotic.


@ General Spoon - dude, her reaction to her parents being tortured to death over the course of three days just for talking to someone was "they must have deserved it."

She will dutifully oppress, torture, and murder the innocent in the name of protecting the innocent, because her superiors telling her to do so is sufficient justification for her.

If she could read minds, she would be literal thought police.

As to The Force Awakens

Spoiler:
She's nothing like Finn. Finn's response to witnessing the brutality of the First Order firsthand was to refuse his order and then rebel against the First Order.

In his place, Linxia's response to that order to kill the villagers would've been to kill the villagers.

A superior judging the villagers to be an enemy is good enough for her.


Evelyn Jones wrote:

@Wyntr: That makes no sense whatsoever for the Order of the Rack. Racks have, as their job, the followings tasks: Finding, Uprooting, and Destroying the chaos that is criminal activities. Torture is only necessary when the accused claims to have not done their crime; her brother admitted to the crime, and therefore his criminal activities had been uprooted and made known. The only step left was to execute him; giving him a chance to explain himself would show a wavering-at-best belief in the righteousness of the law, but torturing him more for no good reason is just a waste of time and shows sadism, not orderliness.

That's interesting. Sorry, I don't know very much about the Hell Knights - just what I read on these forums. Thanks for the information.

Grand Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.

She watched as her parents were publicly tortured to death; and then immediately decided to sign up with the organization that publicly tortured them to death. She persisted through years of training that would include torturing people to death. Then she killed her brother, without hesitation, because a superior ordered her to as a test of loyalty. That reads as demented and evil.

Paizo Employee Senior Developer

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Gorbacz wrote:
Rob clearly forgot to add a line about how she kicked a puppy after she was done with her family. That would settle the controversy...

All of the puppy-kicking takes place in the adventures, not in the iconics' back stories. :)


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

To anyone arguing that she's LN because of her motivations, this is your pleasant reminder that alignment is objective in Golarion and is driven by action, not by motivation. She can do Hellknight things to protect people from chaos and disorder all she wants, she's still torturing people, murdering them in cold blood with little evidence, and generally causing pain and death for the sake of her goals. This is evil. She is going to Hell when she dies, not Axis, because of the actions she has taken in pursuit of her goal.


I actually didn't particularly like the art - which is heresy because it's WAR! (Is there a hellknight that suppresses that particular form of heresy?)

However, by the time I finished reading the backstory, I came to understand and then rather appreciate the art. The Order of the Rack was a really gutsy choice for a PC Hellknight.

I see we're well past the trope of PCs witnessing their relatives die and seeking vengeance. Now they're killing their relatives and calling it justice. Another engaging bio - well done Mr. McCreary.

You guys are 2 for 2 on these.


so whats her base class? fighter?

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